Friday, 31 December 2010

Steart and around

I'm staying in Somerset to bridge the gap between Christmas and New Year, Cornwall and Bristol. We spent yesterday familiarising me with my surroundings, starting with a trip to Stogursey Castle. It's possibly one of the coolest addresses in the UK, as an old castle wall and huge moat survive, with the addition of a cute cottage nestled within the remains.
Then we went to Steart, which is one of those long Somerset kind of coastal parts, along the Bristol Channel, where grass meets mud and the birds just love it. We decided on an unconventional route down to the water's edge, through the reeds, and hung out by the coast for a while. However, this decision made getting back to the bird tower further inland a bit trickier. We had to cross a couple of barbed wire fences, battling through dense 8 foot reeds to reach our destination. As the sky was whitewashed and the land was ours to share only with the birds, I got a slight sense of horror film for a while. But we reached the bird tower with little difficulty, and enjoyed the view of 136 geese through the binoculars.
We ate lunch at Bridgwater Docks and headed back to the house for mulled wine via Alfoxton Park Drive, where we saw a couple of deer, rather then the hundreds I had hoped to see.
Back to Bristol the following day to see in the New Year with friends. Have a good one!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


This is a busy time for celebrations for many people, and it feels like I've been celebrating for weeks. First there was the run-up to Christmas, then Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, then the arrival of more family on 27th. The 28th December is my nephew Zac's birthday, so I felt that in preparation for more food, presents and party games, a coastal walk was in order.
It turns out the entire family thought this was a good idea, so we packed ourselves into a couple of cars and made for Godrevy.
We started off on Gwithian beach, jumping through puddles in new wellies, playing more Montol, and writing messages in the sand which could be viewed from the cliffs above. Then we took a short walk to Godrevy, the favourite hangout for a colony of seals.
The day before I'd walked along Long Rock in the rain, which was exhilarating, and this walk was its gentle opposite.
Refreshed, we made our way back to Penzance partyland, where the Pyrahs were awaiting.

Lescudjack Castle

25th December

Christmas Day, and amid the present unwrapping, eating, drinking and TV watching, we found time to visit Lescudjack Castle.
This was easily done, as an old hillfort sits behind our house at the highest point in Penzance, or rather, we sit upon it, as it dates from the Iron Age. As far as castles go, there is not much to see, but the view over the bay is pretty impressive. We used to walk our dog in this field, and I remember it full of bushes and rubbish, but it's been cleared recently, leaving plenty of space to play 'Montol'.
These days the field is not used for much apart from some pagan ritual near Christmas, which is where we got the idea for the game.
So we ran around for a while, jogging off our Christmas dinner and admiring the view on an ancient hillfort, just minutes from the house.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Somewhere Else

This time last year I just wanted to be somewhere else. I’d been in my job for two and a half years, hated my boss and felt stuck in a rut. I didn’t really care which direction my life took, as long as it went somewhere else and didn’t just stay where it was.
In May I took my little sister’s hand, a deep breath and a huge leap of faith, as we both launched ourselves into unemployment via a trip to Lanzarote.
Since then I have done work experience in London, written for various national publications, set myself up as a private tutor, been considered for jobs in education, charity, youth work and publishing in London, Bath, Bristol and Peru, and although I haven’t actually ended up somewhere else, I’ve discovered much of Cornwall, London, Brighton, Somerset, Edinburgh, Lanzarote, Wales and Leeds.
I’ve gained inspiration seeing Lucy’s positive outlook take her to Berlin, Livvy’s hard work result in some great events, Matt’s kindness get him recognition, and Poppy’s intrepidness offer kids a helping hand in Uganda. Positivity, hard work, kindness and intrepidness may not have got me literally very far this year, but I have come a long way.
As I enter the New Year, I have a new job, new ideas, plans for travel, and pride in my 25 French and Spanish A Level students who did tremendously well in their exams.
And as I shared a fabulous meal thanks to Matt and Livvy last night, I realised that this time last year I didn’t even know these incredible people. Where was I? In a wonderful venue in snowy Cirencester, I was Somewhere Else.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Chipping Sodbury

It's -4C outside. A great day for a walk.
Joe and I chose Chipping Sodbury, as it is close to Bristol and we found a walk which should take no longer than the remaining hours of sunlight.
It is very pretty, especially when frosted. Be sure to go when the ground is hard and unyielding, the grass crunchy and the puddles turned to ice.
We passed three very old churches, dating from 13th century, many farms and three Sodburys: Chipping Sodbury, Old Sodbury and Little Sodbury, ambling through fields, passing frozen cows, sheep and horses; arriving back just as the light was fading from the day. It didn't have far to fade, as all day the sky was as white as the grass, tree branches and nettles.
With muted tones, rolling hills and church spires, time seemed suspended for a while. It was hard to find signs to indicate which period we were living in.
A lovely escape from the city.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Dirty Thirty

On Friday Emma and I set off for Leeds in Emma's car. We left at about 5pm, just as it started to snow, and battling blizzards, traffic jams and bad directions, finally arrived at 10pm-ish, joining Bex's other friends from around the country. We were there to celebrate her 30th.
This involved eating fajitas and drinking wine on Friday night, hitting the German market on Saturday, which smells better than it tastes, and heading back to Bex's house in the afternoon to dress up. Bex had decided to embrace the northern spirit, and we had been told to dress in 'Hollyoaks Glamour'. Cue the leopard print, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, false nails, fake tan, high heels and bling! A few hours and bottles of bubbly later, we no longer resembled our former selves, and some even found new voices and personalities to go with their dress.
We had dinner at Pizza Express, then went to Boutique, where we blended in a treat, sipping cocktails and strutting our stuff on the dancefloor. Though the DJ did ask us to tone it down as we were knocking his equipment off his table in our vigour! We ended the night in a nearby bar, where things went very WAG for a while - lost girls, upset girls, drunk girls and some boys...
It was a fun weekend, but as the taxi refused to take us up the icy hill, and we found ourselves tottering through the snow in our high heels, I felt relieved that I would never have to go through all this hassle for a night out again!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Cross country

In a week, I have travelled from Penzance, to Bristol, to London, to Brighton, and back to Bristol. During this week I saw my parents, sister and nephews in Penzance, where I babysat, stayed awake as children coughed, hunted bears and caught up with friends. I also briefly saw my boyfriend, who was visiting his sister, niece and nephew in Cornwall, made invitations for my mum's birthday, helped develop a plotline for a new novel and had a Skype interview for a job in a place I love: Peru.
Then I had a brief stop in Bristol where I changed beds (having left in a rush after entertaining visitors the previous weekend), washed clothes, applied for jobs, had meetings and supported a hardworking artist on a deadline. I also learned I had passed the interview and was on to round two, and prepared the tasks set for it.
I then headed to London, where I saw two more sisters, a niece and my mum again, played a lot of 'row row row your boat', and ate a birthday tea. I also saw my best friend for birthday lunch and visited the V and A museum with her, went to a party and caught up with two more precious friends, and worried about whether I even wanted the job.
Then I went to Brighton. In Brighton I waited for my boyfriend, shopped, ate lovely food, walked a lot, relaxed in my favourite flat in the world, and attended the round two interview.
I'm now back in Bristol. It has been a busy week. One in which I feel I've fulfilled my sister/ aunty/ friend/ girlfriend duties well. I've also come to some important decisions about where I want to be heading. It's not to Peru, unbelievably. But when my life is so rich with people here, I just can't see myself leaving again.
So, despite leaving the sunny East of the country and returning once more to the windy West, for now, I'm sticking to Bristol.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Heart of Bristol

I had three friends visiting, and needed to entertain them, but I knew that the combination of Halloween weekend and living in Bristol would work out well. Friday night saw endless rounds of veggie chilli as various friends dropped by to see me or my visitors. We watched Night of The Living Dead to get us in the mood as Bex was determined that on Saturday we should join Bristol's famous Zombie Walk.
So we got up on Saturday morning and hit the charity shops, emerging with pretty black dresses, blood and plenty of talcum powder. We ate the rest of the chilli for lunch then popped open some sparkling wine and dressed ourselves down, messing our hair, faces and clothes up until we looked dead. By 3ish we were on our way to College Green, joining thousands of other zombies, including dead Jedward, Ronald McDonald and Michael Jackson. It was too much fun, as zombies aren't supposed to smile, so when we caught sight of a camera we tried to pose as dead...
By 6pm were were well into the cider and Jagerbombs at the Canteen, dancing, chatting and zombie spotting the evening away. Food in Biblos, an X Factor break at mine and we were off again to a short shorts party...
Not a bad Halloween... I think my guests were suitably entertained.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The wonderful Quantocks

Another sunny Sunday! This time to the Quantocks, the glorious Quantocks in Somerset. I didn't know it was possible to drive less than an hour from Bristol, park just off the motorway and find yourself in the countryside. We walked up a big hill, and surrounded by gorse, heather and cows, sat in the sunlight and silence, eating scrummy salads. I love feeling this far from the city when I have a lot on my mind, because as much as I love Bristol, I can't find any part of it that is really quiet and free from traffic noise.
But knowing that the days are getting shorter, I dragged myself to my feet again, to make the most of the light and get walking. We headed down the other side of the hill into a valley of oak trees, and meandered through the dappled light and cobwebs. As we stopped to inspect a feather on the floor, we heard a loud noise in the woods beside us, and caught a glimpse of a wild grouse and heard the stamping of deer running away. We'd obviously scared the deer, who had then scared the grouse.
We walked along the river back to the car, and ended the day near Kilve Beach, which is a crazy place. I've never seen anything like it, except maybe at Giant's Causeway, but these weird rock formations go on for miles, and there are many fossils to be found amongst them. It was such a bright, calm day, the beach looked really beautiful and eery.
Somerset is such a surprising and pleasant place.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Burnham-on-Sea. That's misleading. It's actually Burnham-on-Bristol Channel, or Burnham-on-Estuary. But the truth would not be flattering.
It's a nice place though. After a heavy Saturday night we were broken, but the sun defied our hangovers and enticed us outside. Sunny days in October are precious and we felt compelled to embrace the light and warmth, so off to Burnham-on-Sea we drove.
In the car I felt so rough I was variously moaning, complaining or sleeping, and could not imagine the exercise I was about to undergo.
We parked near the golf course and followed the footpath to the 'beach'. It's a strange old place this Bristol channel, as beaches can go on for miles and mud masquerades as sand. The tide was out, but we stuck to the very top of beach, as this is where the treasure could be found, and the ground would be less likely to claim us.
Treasure in Burnham-on-Sea takes various forms. Plastic bottles, glass bottles, over-worn shoes, bouncy balls, string and lots of wood. Almost a wood in fact. I wonder how so many trees and logs find their way up here? The amount of rubbish washed up is incredible, and I became aware that for each bottle top there was a bottle still in the ocean somewhere. It occurred to me that for every floatable, non-biodegradable piece of junk that can be seen on the shore, there must be lots more junk, that didn't survive it's seafaring experience and is destined to eternal life on the sea floor. How depressing.
Despite the rubbish and the amazing quantities of sandhoppers, jumping their frenzied way to nowhere, we were content to wander along the huge expanse of beach, as the sun setting cast a romantic light on our surreal surroundings. So content in fact, that we didn't realise how far we'd come, or how quickly the sun was setting until we decided to turn around. On the return, we chose to walk a little further down the beach, less heavily populated by sandhoppers. This worked out well. Although we now had the beach to ourselves, we could see the footprints of past walkers and felt relatively sure we wouldn't sink in the darkness before reaching the car again.
But then I felt my foot sinking, and we found that the footprints had run out, and it really was getting darker. We'd come too far and needed to cross the wet muddy bit and get back up the beach. Not a problem, as we could just retrace our footsteps until the end of the mud, but this added quite a bit to our return journey. As the sun was fast disappearing, we had to walk quickly, but we made it.
By the time we reached the car I'd power walked quite a distance, and my hangover was cured!

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Snowdon is fun. It's a long way from Bristol though.
I'm so glad we checked the weather forecast before we went, and delayed our trip by a day, or it would have been a wet and miserable climb. As it was, most of the rain we came across fell mainly on the windscreen, and we were lucky to see the glorious view from the top of the mountain.
We set off from Bristol on Monday, finally reaching Llanberis at tea-time, and set about knocking on the door of all the BnBs we passed, almost every house on each road of this little village. All were full, or said they were, except for Glyn Afon, and it is lovely. Our tiny room was clean and comfortable, with no detail spared. We even had a teddy on the bed! In need of a decent dinner, we strolled along the high street, only to discover that our options were limited. Not wanting to eat takeaway in the car, we settled down in the Spice of Llanberis, just as the rest of the customers were leaving. The waiters watched us like hawks, whipping away our plates the moment we finished the last forkful, and were clearly pleased when we left, with nowhere to head but for an early night before the climb.
A trip to Tourist Information in the morning helped us to choose our route - up the Pyg Pass and down the Llanberis Pass. The Pyg Pass is fairly steep in places. Not quite on a par with the Inca Trail, this is not a bad UK equivalent, as I'd be lying if I said our heartbeats weren't raised! But no real problems heading upwards, and a sense of satisfaction at the top, where we stopped for hot chocolate.
The path down is easy-peasy. Or so it seems, as you follow the train more or less all the way back to Llanberis. However, after a morning on your feet, by halfway down it's hard to keep the news of your aching limbs to yourself, and by the time we finally, thankfully, reached our lovely guesthouse, we'd been on our feet for around 6 hours. I started to think that the three peaks challenge might not be such a piece of cake after all!
Remembering our difficulty finding places to eat the night before, we stuck a pin in the map of North Wales and headed for Caernarvon for dinner. It's right at the top near Anglesey and has a castle, so it seemed like a good idea. We ate in the Black Boy Inn, a cheap and cheerful choice, serving '70's baskets' of things with chips. I chose chilli, and ate far too much.
We'd intended to discover more of North Wales on Wednesday, but our haphazard approach to planning didn't serve us so well this time, and we spent much of the morning on the road in the rain, stopping briefly somewhere distant and unpronounceable for a wet walk along the beach, and in Aberystwyth for another.
By the time we got back to Bristol in the evening, we felt we'd finished a driving marathon, both of us tired and achy from our mountain walking and our sitting still. We'd driven through lots of pretty villages with tiny miners cottages, and as the hours ticked by we'd come to realise that North Wales is far from here. It felt further still to me, distanced by a total incomprehension of where I was most of the time, as I could not even say the name places in my head.
But now I've followed a smelly goat up Snowdon, I feel like it was a good use of three days away. It's important to be reminded that in life, happiness is not just about reaching the top, it's enjoying the climb.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Sunset in Somerset

Heading off at 6.30pm, we went for a wander around Chew Valley Lake in Somerset. It's huge and surrounded by woodland, where we spotted frogs, bats, birds and bugs. We walked to the hideout, designed for twitchers to watch birds or lovers to watch sunsets through spiderwebs. It looked as though the hills in the background were on fire as the sun set beyond, lighting the sky with orange.
On the way back to Bristol we decided to take a detour to Wells, as I'd never been before. It is a stunning city. I wish all the cars could be taken away so you could really feel as though you'd stepped back in time through 500 years. Walking around the cathedral, every shop, hotel and house is perfectly presented, with huge thick stone walls and intricate archways. This is the setting for the film 'Hot Fuzz', and I can understand how the film makers might have felt that there is a kind of scary closed community of people spying on one another here... especially when we came across the Police Community Support Officer taking obvious delight in pasting an unnecessary fixed penalty notice on the car windscreen.
We ate in Wells, and headed back in the blackness. The nights are drawing in, and an autumn feeling creeps alongside them.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Taunton to Bridgwater

A sunny Saturday in September. It would be wrong not to go outside all day long. On a bike. Along a canal. Stopping at pubs. In a group of 18 people. So that's what I did.
We took the expensive train to Taunton and met a crew of fellow enthusiastic cyclists. After stopping to stock up on sandwiches and pump up tyres we were off, caterpillar spotting, high-fiving, falling, whooping and stopping regularly for rehydration in the form of beer. Every couple of miles or so, as how else can you coordinate 18 people on bikes? Pubs make great markers along the way.
The ride from Taunton to Bridgwater is easy, flat, and just the right distance. Somerset in the sun. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A magical Cornish weekend

Penwith is magical in the sunlight. This bank holiday weekend couldn't have gone better. It started with a trip to Porthcurno beach on Friday, where I jumped in the sea and soon got smashed back onto the shore again by a big wave, sand all over me. Then we went to take a look at Porthgwarra. No beach as the tide was high, but the views here, as the sun sets, are just incredible. You get a panoramic view of the tip of England, with the Atlantic below and the rugged cliffs beyond, the sun sparkling on the sea, heather on the ground and birds flying overhead. Perched on a rock on the edge of a cliff, this is a place to feel free.
Saturday was a lot of fun too. We headed to Sennen, to set up Pippa's 30th beach party. We trudged across the beach a number of times to get all our tables, windbreaks, pasties, cupcakes, cider, wine, flags, bunting and children, to a spot perfect for buskers and rounders games, and set up a wonderful party area as requested by Pip. The sun shone and a fabulous time was had by all, many going for a surf or a swim as the weather was so good. As the sun set we headed up the cliffs to our campsite, and sipped pink champagne as we waited for our curry to arrive.
On Sunday I met up with my school friends, who talked about houses and jobs and other such grown up things of which I know very little. Then we spent a long time making our way via Perranporth and Newquay to Polzeath, a part of Cornwall I don't know very well and which seems like the posh part. After a quick and exhilerating dip in the sea, we set up camp and headed out for a night in Wadebridge, only to find ourselves stranded as apparently no taxis work over the bank holiday here. We managed to hitch a lift back and spent a cold night on a clifftop.
Monday was spent walking along the beach to Rock, with a stop for a picnic, and catching the ferry to Padstow, which is a town made almost entirely of food and fat people eating it. Ice-cream, pasties, fish and chips, fudge... Not a lot else goes on here as far as I can tell, apart from the odd art gallery or jewellery shop. Oh, and clothes for posh people. Fat posh people. So after a pint in the pub we headed back, along the sand dunes this time, all the way to the campsite and into the car for the trip back to Bristol.
A wonderful weekend filled with buskers, bunting, balloons, beaches, babies, pasties, pink champagne, camping, clifftops, swimming, sunshine, family and friends.
I love Cornwall!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Boomtown Fair

I want to be back in the land of Boomtown Fair, where drinking all day is encouraged, mechanical horses carry children through the crowds, the music is mad and the people are smiling. I've just come back to earth with a bang after a fabulous few days in a field in Buckinghamshire. Yesterday I woke up in a tent, worrying only about how many wasps were heading inside my mouth (three got in during the course of the festival, it must have been all the hot cider I was drinking). Today I have a monumental headache after having my wisdom teeth pulled out. Ouch.
Boomtown Fair began life as a one day cider festival in a field in Bath, graduated to become Recydrate the West somewhere near Hay-on-Wye, and finally became a fully fledged festie with a new name last year, in the Forest of Dean. I have been there to witness all the changes, and I intend to keep up this tradition. I love Boomtown, because the music is mental, an incongruous but incredible mix of ska, reggae and gypsy-jazz, designed to keep you dancing. I love the people and what they wear, everything from flouncy, flowery dresses, stilts and superhero outfits, to nothing but body paint. I love any excuse to watch the Bristol based Invisible Circus. And I love drinking cider all day.
Boomtown may have grown up, but most of all, I love the fact that for three days straight, thousands of party goers can forget that they have too.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Edinburgh Festival

I've just spent a few days in Edinburgh catching up with a friend, helping to celebrate his birthday, and taking in some of the festival. I'd never been to Edinburgh before, and I was surprised. It's very beautiful, with huge old dark stone buildings, wide streets, and gardens and hills all over the place. It's also very cold. I had to dig out some winter clothing, and ended up shopping for more layers. Most of all, in August, it is busy beyond belief. The cash points run out of money and the city runs out of space. It's hard to find somewhere to rest your weary legs after a heavy morning of theatre viewing.
I was really lucky, as Ben was working for the festival, so I got to see loads of shows for free. It's astounding just how much there is on offer, as almost every theatre, pub, cafe, university building and open space is turned over to music, comedy and dance. I saw some fantastic stuff, favourites being a comedy play called 'No Son of Mine', an improvised musical by Showstoppers, the comedian Andrew Lawrence, and Axis of Awesome, a comedy band.
As I had a lot of time on my hands, I had a go at writing a few reviews, and after sending them off to various editors, have returned to Bristol with quite a busy week ahead of me. Writing, teaching, festival going... I can't imagine how I'd fit a job around my hobbies, and I'm getting quite nervous about getting one now! In the light of the madness of Edinburgh, I've come to realise just how calm and lovely my life has become this Summer.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Crummy beach

On a mission to escape the city, we headed to one of the nearest beaches - Aust and the Severn Estuary. It wouldn't have been my natural choice, but I was with a geologist, an artist, a very enthusiastic person (excited by anywhere) and a really nice person (not going to complain). So that's where we went, and I'm glad. It's weird. Kind of ugly, with the murky river, electricity pylons and traffic noise. But also kind of interesting. We wandered through some fields and along the path where the old ferry used to cross to get to Wales. Then I was instructed by Miss Enthusiastic to look out for fossils and nice rocks on the beach. This turned out to be an easy task, as the beach here is basically made from soft rocks that shatter as you walk across them. Most un-rock-like really, being all crumbly and blue or red, with the odd sparkly hard white one thrown in every so often. We enjoyed a picnic of bread, hoummus and kiwi fruit, took some photos and picked some blackberries. Then we headed back, pockets laden with our jurassic treasure. More of a school trip than a typical beach outing, but it's always good to change the scenery. In this case, especially if you're into surrealism.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Porth Kidney

The Summer gets filled up really quickly when you're not working, and it became apparent last week that my only time to fit in a trip to Cornwall is now. So I woke up in Penzance on Sunday morning and, after having applied for two jobs, felt a cliff walk was in order. I asked Mum to take me to somewhere I hadn't been before, and she didn't disappoint. We walked from Lelant to St Ives, along Porth Kidney and Carbis Bay, looking back over Gwithian and Godrevy. It's amazing how quickly you can feel a long way away from a city. School breaks up next week, so it was a good time to come, before the tourists take over! Gorgeous smells of wild flowers, stunning views of great expanses of sand and sea, all bathed in the beautiful Cornish light. There is so much space and beauty here, and suddenly I can't believe that school hasn't even broken up yet. I've done so much with my freedom already this Summer, and whether or not I get a job any time soon, I'm struck by the fact that I am still to share many spells of Summer happiness. How lucky I am to have family in Cornwall to visit. It makes going home all the more wonderful.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Carnival time!

You don't have to go far from my house to experience 70,000 people celebrating Afro-Caribbean culture by eating jerk chicken, drinking Red Stripe, dancing to sound systems on the street and throwing stuff on the floor. St Paul's Carnival happens on my doorstep (literally, as many a friend dropped in to use the loo, sit down for a moment or grab another beer), and it's a lot of fun. We were blessed with another gorgeous day, drawing long forgotten friends out from the cocoons of their cosy coupled lives, and the festival spirit hit the streets. We watched the parade, hung out in Portland Square, danced at the Malcolm X centre and ended up at the infamous Star and Garter, where a huge crowd refused to stop dancing as long as the tunes kept coming. A long, busy day, where I caught up with lots of great people and met some more. I love Bristol. This is why I can't stay away for long!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Glastonbury festival

2010 was my third Glastonbury, having been to 2003 and 2005. It was also, by far, the sunniest, as not a single drop of rain fell all weekend. For this reason, I think I'm not alone in saying it was a slightly more sensible affair. OK, so I danced like a lunatic, shouted lots, consumed plenty of alcohol day and night, and wandered around the crazy night-time city of Shangri-la with various new and old friends, dropping into diners, aeroplanes, gay bars and circus events. By no means was it sensible. But the combination of being hot all day, unable to catch up on sleep in an airless tent and therefore making the most of the festival daytime, and trying not to dehydrate, meant that less alcohol was consumed, being replaced by water. I'm also 5 years older than the last time I went, so maybe it wasn't a grown-up vibe at all, just a grown-up me.
Anyway, my new, daytime approach is going down well, as Boomtown last year was similarly hot and wonderful. I am terrible at sitting still, and more than happy to wander about in the sunshine all day, drinking cider (or water) and listening to world class musicians.
Highlights this year include Gorillaz, Shakira, Staff Benda Bilili, the Carnage Bar, Arcadia (a fire show on an unimaginable scale), making new friends, and the sunshine. Throughout, the music was not on a par with my previous two Glastonburys, as not many could compare with Lamb, Mogwai, Macy Gray, Morcheeba or Moloko of 2003, and no-one came within miles of Basement Jaxx of 2005. But then I saw Gomez in Avalon, a smaller, more intimate venue, and the standards were raised. They were incredible.
My advice is to be independent and mission to the acts you want to see, or just hang out at the West Holts stage, if you're anything like me and want to make the most of the music. You can sit down with your mates any old weekend! Most importantly, do it your way, and do not be afraid of missing out. There is so much to see you will miss a lot, but not as much as you take in!
All up, it was a great festival. Bigger, more overwhelming, more commercial every time, but endlessly entertaining. Looking forward to Boomtown already!

Soul searching on 12th June

When my mum rang in the morning, and asked if I was doing anything special that day, I thought I'd better ask why before explaining that I'd been looking forward to St Werburgh's festival and the England v USA match all week. But mum wanted to know if I fancied visiting my granma in Wales as she'd be driving through later. Oh no! Family or friends is an easy choice, but family or friends, beer, music, dancing, sunshine and an England match is slightly less so. Although these are all special to me, I knew I had to take her up on the offer. And so to Wales, on the first England match day of the World Cup!
I live by many mottos, and one of them has something to do with prioritising things which are good for the soul. This trip was. As the sun shone on the Werburghers, Lucy and I were squished in the back of my parents posh looking but very cramped car. That evening we found ourselves in a Welsh pub with loads of Welsh rugby fans, aka, our aunties and uncles, wistfully looking over their shoulders at the distant TV screen. Not a single person in the pub cared enough about the plight of their English neighbours to sit near the tele. But as the evening progressed, and the wine flowed, we relaxed, enjoying a wonderful cod dinner and starting a variety of drinking games. Even the barmen joined in by the end!
The next day we spent with Granma, and took a walk around Porthcawl. As it started to rain, we all sheltered in a cafe. This cafe definitely wins the prize for inhospitality in my eyes! My sister was told not to use the loo unless she bought something, my mum was shouted at when she pointed out she'd been undercharged, the tea was lukewarm and the tablecloths dirty. The owner was also asleep on the sofa. We all found it quite hard not to laugh.
That evening we spent with the kids of my cousins. Four boys aged 7 - 11, who, thankfully for Lucy and I, are fans of all sports. Happily watching the Germany v Australia match, we enjoyed another glass or four of wine, and reminded ourselves that it's good for the soul to visit your family every now and again.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Warleigh Weir

Since I've been back from Lanzarote, and the sun has endlessly shone on Bristol's streets, I have been fruitlessly searching for my ideal local swimming spot. Although I've lived here on and off for a long time, I haven't ever really spent a Summer here. Being variously a student or teacher, this has been my time to escape. And now I'm perplexed. What do Bristolians do when it's hot? My natural urge is to find water and jump in it. Wherever else I've lived, this has not posed any sort of problem, but in Bristol, finding water to jump in takes some serious brainpower. Not the harbourside - too dirty. Paddling pool in St Andrew's Park - full of kids. Clifton Lido - too expensive. Portishead open air swimming pool looks glorious, but not easily accessible for a carless one. Even getting a paddling pool seems a bit pointless, as our garden is in the almost constant shade of the neighbours' tree and at risk of a visit from their cat. So on Saturday morning, not too early, Hannah and I caught the train to Bath, in search of some clean water to keep me cool throughout the Summer.
We cycled along the towpath towards Bradford (upon Avon), and veered off at Warleigh Weir. This place is a real find! It is a big open field where you are free to hang out with the cows at your leisure, and the Weir is beautiful. Although it does not come close to topping the list of my favourite outdoor swimming spots, it does seem to be one of the closest to me geographically at the moment. Plus it's free, and offers an added curiosity factor of dodging mud, reeds and fish. I'd say our find was a success.
After hanging out, drying off and refuelling with plenty of pasta salad, we headed back to Bristol on our bikes, cycling around 22 miles more along the cycle path, with a stop at The Bird in Hand for a glass of rose. On the way home we passed Saltford and Bitten, which might be worth a look for future swims.
If you have a free day, cycling to Warleigh is a great option, but if anyone knows of any others spots where I can swim outdoors in Bristol, please let me know!

Monday, 24 May 2010


I love Lanzarote!
I've just got back from a week over there, where I was visiting an old and precious friend. It could not have been sweeter. Ada has a pool in her garden and a beach on her doorstep. She also has perfect skin, a beautiful heart and a very bright spirit.
We spent the first few days catching up, chilling out and waiting for my sister to appear from the ash cloud which had unhelpfully swallowed her up. In the meantime, I didn't give a single thought to the bad boys, scary no-work situation or massive to-do list left behind in England. My priorities were simply how often to reapply suncream and... oh no, there was only that one!
So when Lucy finally did appear on the magical island of lava, light and langoustines, Ada and I were ready for some action. We started drinking at lunchtime, and a few bottles of wine, lots of baby squid and some crazy karaoke later, Lucy and I found ourselves back in the flat in the early hours of the next day. Without Ada. We awoke to the sight of the world's hottest men, who insisted on making us tea and taking us to some special secret surf spot. We had a lot of fun, lounging around and translating for Ada and her hot new friend, who were interested in one another but unfortunately unable to speak the same language.
We were so impressed. By Ada and her ability to find such fitties, by the beauty of an island in the Atlantic, covered in lava, with smatterings of one story white houses around the edge, but mostly by the Ironmen. We were quite sad that the ash didn't prevent us from getting home, as the next day thousands of dedicated athletes would be swimming 4k, cycling over 100k and running a marathon. We'd watched them train throughout the week, complaining about the heat as we sat in the shade with a cold beer!
Lanzarote is an amazing place, and with Ada in it, it really is magical.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Walk, swim, run, cycle

After 4 days at home in Penzance, I feel like a new person!
My parents picked me up on their way through Bristol on Saturday. Friday had been my last day at work so I'd spent many hours in the pub afterwards, and could have done with a lie in, but was happy to forsake it in place of a free ride. We got to PZ in time for tea - supplied by my big sis who lives fairly nearby. We missed Lucy, as the bank holiday had brought the rest of us together (Mum n Dad, 3 girls, 3 babies).
Taking advantage of the free babysitting, Kate and I headed out for a drink. It's rare for the two of us to have any time together now there are babies and few hundred miles between us, so a glass of wine and a chat was welcome. Our high spirits were not at all reflected in our surroundings, however. Penzance was dead, and this is bank holiday weekend! Once again I remind myself not to move back any time soon!
Sunday, and we all met in sunny St Ives, to build sandcastles, paddle and splash. My first beach day this year - not a bad start to unemployment! As the evening set in I felt I couldn't really delay the start of the new me, and made the huge effort of running to Newlyn and back (around 4 miles/ 7k I'd guess).
Monday morning, another day off for us all, and I jumped out of bed and ran it all again! Then mum, Kate, baby Ella and I walked our way to Marazion, an easy and beautiful journey when the sun is shining. There's nothing quite like St Michaels Mount for making me feel at home. The blue sky and calm sea punctuated by the odd seagull, kitesurfer, or my personal favourite, a dog who cannot believe his luck at the huge expanse of sand and water to run and play in. This is how I like dogs best, from a happy and sweet smelling distance. In the evening the grown up girls headed to Truro for another not-so-wild night out. Bank holiday weekend and we had the bar to ourselves! How can Cornwall be so laid back it actually forgets to party?
I stayed over at Pippa's so that I could babysit Zac in the morning, and had a fabulous time tiring him out at the park. I can't really think of better company, as this child does not cry, question or demand. He simply smiles, coos and cuddles. Back on the train, and in the afternoon Mum n I walked from Pendeen to Portherris. A stunning sunny Cornish cove, just for us! I can't describe how fresh the air felt, how bright the hegderows and how sweet-smelling the gorse on the walk down. Forgetting the 10 months of fog and gloom, this would be a wonderful place to live!
Tuesday, my first real day off, as school is back on. I got Mum to myself again, and we hopped on our bikes and cycled to Prussia Cove. We happened across a car-boot on our way, and took in the festival atmosphere, as it was all sunny again, with people milling about and a background hum of generators. Down to the cove and I jumped into the sea for the first wild swim of the year. Refreshing! If you want to feel alive, I recommend cycling along the coast and jumping into freezing waters, shared only by a curious seal! We ate our pasties and hung out on the beach, reluctantly returning in time for me to catch my train back to Bristol. Time to face the unemployed facts. I think I'll just put a wash on, write to some friends, go shopping, drink coffee...
I'm planning to start a business, but not today!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

London living

After hanging out in London for 2 weeks I have come to the conclusion that Londoners settle for less. Each of my many friends there is undoubtedly happy and fulfilled, but they seem to be content with so much less than the non-Londoner would expect. After a battle to get onto the tube, a squished, uncomfortable journey, general rudeness from people on all sides, a day sitting at a desk, and endless traffic noise, Londoners return to a flat which is a bit smaller, a bit nastier, a bit harder to get to and at least three times the price of anything you'd pay for elsewhere. I just cannot get over the prices! Extortionate travel costs to visit friends in hard-to-reach places, extortionate drinks prices to relieve the boredom of a London day at work, and extortionate dinner prices, so you can be reassured that there's a reason why you earn loads of money... Londoners splash their cash at every opportunity. I am not convinced. If possible, I'd love to stay in walk-around Bristol, where the pints and the houses are affordable. Londoners may make me feel poor, what with their whopping salaries, gym memberships and clothes by designers I've never heard of, but after a little taste of London living, my return to Bristol makes me feel rich and indulged. I'm so happy to be back!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Racing ducks and flat frogs

A weekend in Deerpark Forest, North Cornwall, to celebrate Grampy's 60th. I had pictured leisurely rambles, kids tucked up in bed and long nights of reading books and playing scrabble... I hadn't banked on living one of the most tiring weekends of 2010 so far! Throw in a two-year-old, a one-year-old and a 4 monther, 4 sisters, two brothers-in-law, Nana and Grampy, a three course meal, surprise party, three cakes to decorate, countless presents to unwrap, a rubber duck race and torrential rain... My book did not see the light of day!
But a lot of fun was had, introducing 'Baby Ella' to her cousins, blowing bubbles, popping balloons, flat frog spotting and almost losing children to mud. I have a very funny, noisy, caring family, who could not be loved by, or love Grampy more. What better way to show this, than with a cake decorating competition, in which, I am happy to say, Nana did not win with her 'F***ing Nutter' cake! No complaints from 2-year-old Vinny though, who devoured it the minute the candles were blown out! Cake, chocolate and bubbles galore. Happy Birthday Grampy (you F***ing Nutter!)!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

I'm looking for a sea-horse...

In half term I met my sister and her two boys, aged 2 and 1, in Plymouth, to visit the aquarium. I've been to aquariums before, and like to stroll through at a leisurely pace, reading up about the creatures and their quirky ways (some fish are all born male and the best ones turn female, and seahorses are bisexual). But my two-year-old nephew had other ideas. So we set about ticking sea creatures off Vinny's list. 'I want to see fish, turtles, sea horses, crabs, stingrays, sharks and an octopus' he said. The only problem was that he wanted to see them in that order, and he only wanted to see them, not really learn about, watch, or even look at them. Each time a helpful aquarium worker was spotted Vinny would approach, asking politely 'Excuse me, I'm looking for a ...', and off we would go to the appropriate area, only satisfied once the creature had been spotted. This involved zig-zagging through the multi-storey aquarium with mummy, auntie, pram and baby brother in tow, at least three times. It's fun racing around aquariums with two-year-olds, but I'm kind of with Zac on this one, who clearly just wanted to sit and watch the fish swim by. Needless to say, we were all exhausted by lunchtime, and stopped in the shop on our way out, where I suggested to Vinny that he choose a souvenir. Vinny, certain as ever, made a quick and definite choice, and we left with some bath toys, three fish and a turtle named Scally, Scrally, Scrabby and Thomas. Disaster struck on the way home, when we realised that Scrabby had escaped, but Vinny's tears were tempered when mummy told Vinny where he'd gone. The best part of the day? Hearing Scally bravely explaining to Scrally in the bath that evening 'it's ok, don't worry, Scrabby swum back to see his mummy'.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Brighton Rocks 29/1/10

Last weekend I took my little sister and best friend to check out my parents' new flat in Brighton. I believe I may have found my favourite new hideout. This place is beautiful, spacious and perfectly positioned opposite the West Pier.
We had a fantastic time meandering through the North Laines buying penguin jumpers, fake wedding rings and fudge. My sister thought she might have stumbled across heaven when we wandered into the huge bric a brac store. A mini-city in itself, with endless corners to turn and piles of junk to sift through. A number of old postcards later, a stop in the Fortune of War was in order, catching up with more old friends and watching the sun set over Brighton beach to the taste of lager n lime... My definition of a perfect winter's afternoon! Back to the flat to jump around to Lady Gaga, parade around in our new outfits and drink wine, then out for dinner with another wonderful but lesser spotted friend. We rounded off the evening at the back of a theatre bar, where my sister drunkenly made best of friends with an older group, mostly via the medium of showing off that our mum is so great! Lovely happy tipsy smiley people.
Sunday brought starjumps on the beach and roast dinner in the pub. A quick stop in the sales to top up the old winter wardrobe and we were set. Back to the real world of train delays and lessons to prepare... My notice goes in this week. Maybe I'll head to Brighton and sell fudge!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Winter Wonderland

Waking up to the radio alarm telling you there is no way to get to work is the best way to wake on the 12th day of Christmas! Snuggle back under, try not to think about all the marking and preparation.
I have to head outside, so Paul and I make our crunchy way to Strawberry Hill, St Werburgh's. It looks like a winter wonderland, tangled branches heavy with snow and kids hurtling down the hills.
We come across an 8 foot snowman, and watch crazy youths throwing themselves off the edge of a steep drop, and slide around a bit ourselves. The most impressive thing we witnessed though, was a family building an igloo. The kids filled recycling bins with snow and packed it down to form bricks, and dad set about sticking it all together. It was as high as me and as large as a small bedroom. Productive snow day!
I've never seen so much snow in the UK before, it was like a ski resort.
Lots of fun was had, and with a prediction for -10 tonight, we might be lucky enough to get a second snow day tomorrow, leaving me plenty of time for marking!
January's not so bad after all. Pretty confident of a lie-in tomorrow, I crack open a bottle of wine.
Here's to a white Christmas!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Walking the Welsh Wey

Left the house at 9am on the last day of the Christmas holidays and immediately found myself sprawled on the pavement - icy!
A couple of friends and I drove across the bridge to Chepstow, Wales, intending to join the Ramblers, only to realise upon arrival that we'd got the wrong Sunday! Undeterred, we headed to Tourist Information where the apricot haired assistant did her best to put us off any sort of dangerous walking activity. Despite the beautiful sunshine and crisp cold air, she was convinced that if the detour didn't confuse us, the snow would trap us, and failing that the bus driver might not feel like dropping us back once we reached our destination. Besides, it was already 11am so there was hardly any point in walking as the day was nearly over! We headed off to Tintern.
The views were stunning, best at Eagle Pass, where you can see the river below (possibly named Wey as this is the Wey Valley), cliffs around and River Severn beyond, and England! It looked almost as though the Severn, shining silver in the sun, were suspended above everything else. A magical moment. Crunching across frozen grassy fields and paddling through rivers we made it successfully to Tintern, with its impressive abbey, and had time for lunch before catching the bus back to Chepstow.
An 8 mile walk with friends is a great way to take your mind off the return to work!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Swan Lake

New Years Day 2010, and the skies are blue above Bristol.
My night did not go as planned. I had a good time with great people but couldn't help feeling a bit let down by non-events and non-enthusiasm of my 2009. I like to give a lot and get a lot back, and feel drained by passivity.
So, determined not to start the year looking down, I headed off for a walk. To Eastville Park with positive Paul, and to my surprise and delight the lake was frozen over! I'd never seen a frozen lake before, and found the sight of swans and ducks on, not in the water, incredible, in the true sense of the word.
Today I walked a peace mile and witnessed birds walking on water.
2010 will be a great year.